Cacciucco, Livorno’s Fish Stew

Cacciucco alla Livornese, by the Ristorante Alcide in Poggibonsi

Cacciucco alla Livornese, by the Ristorante Alcide in Poggibonsi

Cacciucco is a fish stew made along the Tuscan coast, made from whatever the fishmonger has that’s fresh and inexpensive, or hasn’t sold. There are many variations; the most famous is from Livorno, where it is perked up with a healthy jolt of red pepper: It will sell you on fish if you don’t like fish already.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of mixed fish, whatever is in season (it needn’t be expensive), for example, sole, mullet, catfish, dogfish, goby, squid, octopus, fresh shellfish, and shrimp or mantis shrimp. Chop the large fish, but leave the small ones whole
  • A half a medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A bunch of parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sliced fresh or canned plum tomatoes (if they’re fresh, blanch and peel them)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar diluted in 3/4 cup of water
  • Salt and crumbled or minced hot red pepper to taste
  • Toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic

Sauté the onion, parsley, and garlic in the oil in a deep bottomed pot. Once the onion has turned translucent, stir in the chopped tomatoes and season the mixture to taste. This is one of the few spicy Central Italian dishes, so don’t feel you must be sparing with the red pepper. When the tomatoes are done, stir in the water and vinegar. Simmer the for a few more minutes and remove the garlic. Blend the sauce and return it to the fire with the fish, and, if you wish, sprinkle another tablespoon or two of olive oil into the pot. Simmer the cacciucco until the fish is done, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast several slices of bread and rub them with a crushed clove of garlic.

Once the fish is done, line the bottoms of your bowls with the toasted bread, ladle the cacciucco over them, and serve.

A note: there are a number of schools of cacciucco in Livorno. This recipe is modern, and cooked briefly. More traditional recipes call for simmering the cacciucco considerably longer, up to 2-3 hours, and if you choose this path you should space out the fish more, cooking the swimming fish and the octopus or squid for much longer than you cook the shellfish and crustaceans.

Serves four.

Cacciucco alla Viareggina is milder, but just as tasty.

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Categories: Fish Soups & Stews, Tuscan Fish Recipes

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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